August Walla

August Walla's contribution to the 1987 Luna Luna park was the Hand-Painted Circus Wagon

For his Luna Luna attraction, August Walla painted a circus wagon with figures and characters drawn from his private mythology.


August Walla


Painted circus wagon


1936, Austria

Walla was a key figure of the Art Brut movement, a term that translates as “raw art,” used to describe art made by self-taught artists

He was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teenager and spent much of his life in and out of psychiatric institutions, using art as therapy

Walla created installations, paintings, sculptures, text, graffiti, photographs, and drawings

August Walla was one of postwar Austria’s most prolific and mystifying artists. Walla’s brightly colored figurative paintings and installations that blend symbols and text have established him as a leading figure of Art Brut—a term coined by artist Jean Dubuffet to refer to naïve-appearing work made by self-taught artists outside the academic tradition of fine art.

Walla’s work is deeply informed by both his autobiography and symbols drawn from politics, popular culture, and religion. Walla’s mother raised him as a girl hoping to stop him from being enlisted in the army; later on, Walla consistently questioned and explored gender, using inverted swastikas as an emblem of femininity and the hammer and sickle as an emblem of masculinity.

Walla’s work is deeply informed by both his autobiography and symbols drawn from politics, popular culture, and religion.

August Walla.

After being diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teenager, Walla moved in and out of the Maria Gugging Psychiatric Clinic, then known as the Mental Health and Care Facility at Gugging, on the outskirts of Vienna. In 1986, he became a resident of what came to be known as the House of Artists, founded by clinic psychiatrist Leo Navratil. Walla’s room there was the hub of his wildly original creative universe; he covered the walls with figures, symbols, and mysterious phrases, creating a ritualistic space akin to a nondenominational chapel.

The hand-painted circus wagon that August Walla made for Luna Luna is lifted straight out of what he called his Welltallendefremdsprache (“Universe of Foreign Language”) made up of symbols and words from German and other languages transformed into a private dialect. Figures with exaggerated bodily features, phrases, crosses, moons, fish, bullets, and potent symbols like a hammer and sickle and swastikas cover the wooden carriage, all painted in the primary colors typical of Walla’s mythical-magical universe.

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